Like Jewel and Liz Phair, Gloria Estefan chose a total change of direction for her 2003 release, writing all of the earnest and reflective lyrics for the soul-searching and devoid-of-dance-pop Unwrapped. With the most detailed production to ever grace the singer's albums (swirling Mellotrons, Andean flutes, and a McCartney-esque muted-megaphone vocal trick that shows up too often) Unwrapped stumbles over itself trying to put Estefan's emotional lyrics up front. Longtime collaborator Jon Secada and a revolving door of writers contribute the hookless accompaniment to Estefan's rhetorical flourishes and excessive use of clichés. Her authentic delivery shows she's really behind the new direction, which makes the urgent metaphors a little easier to take in small bites. Without even a hint of levity, sitting through the whole album feels like an exhausting open-mic night at the coffee shop. "Te Amaré" and "Wrapped" right some of the wrongs with light Latin touches offering relief, and the four Spanish-language reprises at the end of the album find the singer sounding twice as confident. The guest spots are left to the less ambitious numbers, with Stevie Wonder adding some exuberance to "Into You," and Chrissie Hynde trading lines with Estefan on "One Name" isn't as awkward as expected. Had Unwrapped snuck in some of the new Gloria among some of the old, it could have been more successful. Covering up the underdeveloped writing with sonic overkill, it is as least interesting and a good setup for the expected "return-to-form" album.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
Track Listing - Disc 1